JD Taylor, PE named vice president and principal at CE Solutions

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At CE Solutions, a lot has changed since we opened our doors in 1998. What began with our president, Steve Osborn, providing structural engineering services out of the basement of his home has developed into a growing staff of 13 working on a diverse blend of fulfilling projects in and beyond Indiana.

As CE Solutions moves to the next level, we're beginning to assemble the next level of leadership to create opportunities and prepare our firm for the future. As part of that transition, we're excited to announce that JD Taylor has been named vice president and principal of the firm.

"I'm grateful for this new role and am looking forward to the next chapter of CE Solutions, building on the successful founding principles of solid relationships, mutual respect, integrity and ethical practice," JD said.

"His expertise, his experience managing our workload, and his history with the firm--along with our personal relationship that started in 1993--makes JD ideal for this position," said Steve.

JD's role on current, ongoing projects will proceed normally. Over time, he will increase his engagement in the business of our firm while continuing to maintain project involvement and client relationships. 

We appreciate his leadership and service to CE Solutions and our clients. Congratulations, JD!

my CANstruction Experience: the benefits of giving back

When the opportunity arose for me to represent CE Solutions and join a 2016 Canstruction team, it appealed to me for two reasons. Most importantly, all the work that goes into the project is for one purpose: to help people in need by donating thousands of cans to Gleaners Food Bank. In addition, throughout my path to structural engineering, I had never participated in a competition quite like this one, where I could apply my skills to help build a structure made solely from cans. 

My participation in Canstruction proved to be meaningful far beyond my expectations. Representing CE Solutions and working alongside our partners from InterDesign and Mattcon General Contractors in this competition benefited me on both a professional and personal level.  

Professionally:

  • As the structural engineer in charge from our office, I was able to practice management skills such as communication, coordination and time management. This was great experience for me because it applies to responsibilities I have as a project engineer.
     
  • Creating professional relationships with other participants beyond my teammates was also a significant benefit from my participation. Canstruction attracts several firms in the field. It was great for me to meet some of the individuals that work for some of the other companies. 

Personally:

  • Creating closer relationships with my team members at CE Solutions was certainly rewarding.
     
  • I was able to meet people who work in other industries, like food (Kroger) and professional sports (Pacers).
     
  • Canstruction was located on the grounds of the Indiana State Fair, so I had the opportunity to experience the fair for the first time, which was an adventure on its own. 

I relished the challenge of making the Colts’ mascot, Blue, out of 3,158 cans with my team, and we took home three awards—Structural Ingenuity, Juror’s Choice and People’s Choice. I encourage firms to participate in this event in the years to come to create lasting relationships and give back to the community!

 

Jessica Barrios
Project Manager, CE Solutions

Attracting (and keeping) professionals in the design and construction industry

Earlier this year, I was grateful to see several months of planning come to fruition at “What’s on TAP 2016,” a half-day event promoted across a record 14 associations in the Indiana design and construction community. As many of CE Solutions' clients and collaborators can attest, we are in the midst of a talent war in the architecture, engineering and construction community. With that in mind, the planning committee (which included CE Solutions' marketing coordinator, Travis Davis) focused this year’s event on the importance of finding and investing in great people.
 
In addition to enjoying a cast of amazing speakers, the committee presented the fourth annual TAP Lifetime Achievement Award to Karen Courtney, AIA, FSMPS, Chief Marketing Officer at Fanning Howey.
 
Below are just a few soundbites captured from the amazing speakers who spoke to our theme, “For Hire: People, Projects and Profit.”

  • “Instill a sense of purpose... As builders and designers, we make a huge difference in this world.” - Brent Darnell, Author, Speaker and Coach, Brent Darnell International
  • “It’s not about the projects. It’s easy to get into that it’s more about the next project, the design, the systems, the delivery mechanism, etc. It’s about people. And what you want to do is always focus on the people.” - Dr. Thomas Morrison, Vice President, Capital Planning & Facilities, Indiana University
  • “You are all talent acquisition people. Today’s talent acquisition job is a marketing job and it requires not just those of us in HR to do this work, but it means every one of us has to be a marketer. A brand ambassador.” -  David Llewellyn, Talent Acquisition & Development Manager, Kirby Risk
  • “The people strategy is equal to the business strategy... We’ve got to have an employee value proposition.” - Susan Pittman, Vice President, Talent & Organization Development, Luckett & Farley Architects & Engineers
  • “Marketing is one of the tactics to help share what’s great about your team.” - Josh Miles, Principal, MilesHerndon
  • “During my most impressionable age, no one talked about the field I loved… If you taught us how to be part of this hidden industry, there wouldn’t be an employee shortage." - Kathy Berryhill, Construction Management Student, Ball State University

You can find slides and links to most of the videos from most of the sessions on the TAP web site under the “Schedule & Speakers” tab.

Enjoy!
 
Holly Bolton, FSMPS, CPSM
Director of Marketing, CE Solutions

10 tips for improving the durability of your parking garage

A building is an investment in the future. For concrete parking garages, many considerations owners make during the design process can affect the life of the structure. Throughout design and after, keep the following in mind for a parking garage that stands the test of time:

  • Select a qualified design team and contractor with expertise and experience in the chosen construction type.
  • Select a designer that focuses on thoroughness and attention to detail—details matter when it comes to design and construction. A thorough and complete set of construction documents yields tighter bid results and reduces the chance of surprises (change orders) during construction. Also, a carefully detailed structure that addresses concrete shrinkage, thermal movement, restraining effects, deflection, steel corrosion and other serviceability concerns will go a long way toward increasing the life expectancy of the structure. Engage the design team throughout construction and incorporate the provisions of Chapter 17 of the International Building Code (Structural Tests and Special Inspections) to evaluate the contractor’s work for compliance with the design intent.
  • In a precast concrete garage, there are frequent joints and exposed steel connections. Make sure they are properly detailed and constructed to reduce opportunities for deterioration from movement or exposure to de-icing chemicals and other harsh elements. At a minimum, all exposed steel connections and embed plates should be hot-dipped galvanized.
  • For cast-in-place, post-tensioned concrete structures, make sure encapsulated tendons are used and the concrete mix design is proportioned for durability, with admixtures that resist freeze-thaw action and reduce permeability. Various combinations of low water-cement ratio (0.40 or less), air entrainment (5 to 7%), calcium nitrite corrosion inhibitor (3 gal/cy), penetrating silane sealer (40% solids or more) and micro silica fume (50 lb/cy) are commonly used to address these issues. If using micro silica fume and the parking garage will be exposed to de-icing chemicals or other harsh elements within its first year of service, consider applying a penetrating silane sealer to the concrete surface to protect the concrete until the micro silica fume has an opportunity to fully activate. This usually takes approximately one year.
  • Increasing the protective concrete cover over the embedded reinforcing steel is another easy way of achieving improved durability. A thickness of 2 inches is recommended for surfaces exposed to de-icing chemicals or other harsh elements. “Black” mild steel reinforcement with increased cover is preferred over epoxy coated reinforcement with less cover.
  • Don't allow electrical conduit to be embedded in the cast-in-place concrete portions of a structure. Many a parking garage has been severely damaged from embedded electrical conduit that has corroded and expanded, causing significant delamination and spalling.
  • The minimum floor slope for positive drainage is 1.5% or approximately 3/16 inch per foot. Ideally, 2% or 1/4 inch per foot is recommended to effectively increase the life expectancy of a parking structure by reducing the potential for contaminated water leaching into the concrete and causing corrosion of mild reinforcing steel, prestressed strands or post-tensioned tendons.
  • The value of regular maintenance and cleaning of the parking structure cannot be overemphasized. Removing harmful elements brought into the garage before they have an opportunity to do harm, touching up galvanized coating on exposed steel connections and repairing failed joint seals and sealants go a long way toward extending the life of the structure.
  • It is best practice to design a parking garage for durability without the need for a surface-applied traffic coating. Traffic coatings are an excellent option for extending the life of an existing garage that lacks the above best practices for durable design. The traffic coating can also be used as a strategy to reduce energy, depending on the goals and maintenance of the facility. For example, black traffic coating on the upper decks of a parking garage can assist in heat retention in the winter to help snow and ice melt in mild winter weather events, reducing the need for plow trucks, deicing-chemicals, etc. On the other hand, white traffic coatings reflect the sun’s energy, rather than absorb it, and may be more suitable in areas of intense heat. When selecting traffic coatings for the upper decks, make sure to select ones that won’t degrade when exposed to ultraviolet light. Aliphatic epoxies or urethanes are an excellent choice for this condition.
  • For more information regarding parking garage durability, refer to the recommendations of the American Concrete Institute in their ACI 362 publication “Guide for the Design of Durable Parking Structures,” the Post-Tensioning Institute in their publication “Design Fundamentals of Post-Tensioned Concrete Floors” and the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute in their publications “Precast Prestressed Concrete Parking Structures: Recommended Practice for Design and Construction” and “Maintenance Manual for Precast Parking Structures.”

I welcome feedback and the opportunity to discuss this topic further should you have questions about how to extend the life of your parking structure.

All the best,

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions

Comparing advantages of parking garage construction types in the Midwest

The need for more parking spaces results in many decisions a building owner must face. Should you construct a parking garage or a surface parking lot? What project delivery method should you use? Which team of consultants and builders should you select? And when building a parking garage—what type of construction makes the most sense?

The answer to this last question depends a lot on the owner’s goals and priorities. Today, the two most common construction types for standalone parking garages in the Midwest are:

1) cast-in-place, post-tensioned concrete, or

2) precast, prestressed concrete.

Both methods provide different advantages.

1.      Cast-in-place, post-tensioned – These garages are constructed using ready-mix concrete poured into removable forms on-site. High-strength tendons (typically sheathed with lithium-based grease and unbonded) in the concrete are anchored at the outer edges of the concrete and tensioned after the concrete has gained sufficient strength.

Durability and potential for lower long-term costs

This method of casting the garage on the site creates many benefits that relate to durability. With fewer joints and mechanical connections, and built-in protection systems such as epoxy-coated reinforcing steel and concrete admixtures (like air entraining agents, water reducers, corrosion inhibitors, silica fume, etc.), this type of garage traditionally requires fewer repairs than a precast garage. This results in lower maintenance costs over the life of the structure. The monolithic construction inherent in post-tensioned garages helps reduce building movement from both gravity and lateral loads. The more movement a structure experiences, the more likely cracking and connection distress will occur.

Comfort and design

Cast-in-place, post-tensioned garages mean fewer joints—a major source of maintenance in concrete structures. This provides a smoother ride and less noise when drivers are traveling through the garage. In addition, with a post-tensioned garage, beams can be spaced further apart, giving a more open and safe feel by increasing light distribution and depth of views into the garage without increasing floor-to-floor heights. Often fewer fixtures are needed to illuminate the space because of how the structural beam location improves light distribution. Cast-in-place garages also offer greater design flexibility and customization.

2.      Precast, prestressed – Panels, ledger beams, columns and double-tee members are fabricated off-site and assembled on-site. High-strength tendons (typically unsheathed and bonded) in the concrete are anchored at the outer edges of the concrete forms and pre-tensioned before the concrete is placed, then released after the concrete has gained sufficient strength.

Timing, speed and concrete quality

The primary components of the garage are fabricated off-site and assembled on-site, so the garage can be field-assembled quickly and in nearly any kind of weather. Depending on fabrication time, this can potentially allow an owner to gain occupancy faster. Because the components are produced in a controlled environment, concrete quality is more easily achieved.

Potential for lower initial costs

The initial construction cost is sometimes lower with precast construction because of reduced labor and erection costs and shorter construction duration. Design costs are usually lower with precast construction because the structural design is usually provided by the fabricator, consistent with design criteria established by the design team. Long-term costs however, are usually higher due to more frequent joints and mechanical connections that require regular maintenance and repairs over the life of the structure.

I welcome feedback and the opportunity to discuss this topic further should you have additional thoughts or questions about precast versus post-tensioned parking garages and how to extend their useful life economically.

In my next blog post, I’ll address considerations for improved durability in your parking garage, regardless of construction type.

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Until next time,

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions

The QBS Process

In my last blog post, I addressed why Qualifications-Based Selection was important. But how does it work? There are essentially three steps to the process:

  1. A client issues a Request for Qualifications, shortlists three-to-five firms for interviews, checks references and ranks the firms.
  2. The client further defines the scope of work and contract terms with the highest ranked firm.
  3. The client retains the firm on the basis of mutually agreed-upon fee.

If fee negotiations fail with the highest ranked firm, the client initiates step 2 with the next highest ranked firm, and so on, until a mutually acceptable scope of work, contract terms and fee are achieved.

This process is analogous to when we recruit and hire qualified candidates for our companies. An RFQ is similar to a job description; we shortlist and interview candidates and check references, similar to step 1. Then, we formalize employment terms and conditions, benefits and compensation with the preferred candidate, similar to steps 2 and 3 above.

Commoditization happens when we are unable to demonstrate the value of our services to our clients. It’s our responsibility, at the grass roots level, to educate ourselves and our companies on the importance of QBS so that we can effectively educate our clients on how to hire us using this process. For more information, visit the QBS Committee page on the ACEC Indiana website.

Until next time,

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions

QBS – What and Why?

I recently had the opportunity to talk with young professionals enrolled in ACEC Indiana’s Engineering Leadership class on the topic of Qualifications-Based Selection of professional services. QBS continues to be a hot topic in the design and construction industry, as firms strive to provide quality service delivered by the best and the brightest while buyers of professional services face financial pressures. What many don’t realize is QBS is a competitive process; however it is based on qualifications and competence, rather than price. It’s the process members of the design community prefer for the selection of professional services, is endorsed by a long list of professional organizations and governmental agencies and is the basis of the Brooks Act passed in 1972 that requires the Federal Government to select engineering and architecture firms based upon their competency, qualifications and experience rather than by price. But why is it so important?

  • By fostering a focus on understanding the scope of work between both the client and the design professional, QBS helps promotes improved project quality.
  • The cost of high quality professional services is only a small percentage of the overall project cost. However, the professional services firm's qualifications can have a significant impact on the lifetime cost of the project.
  • Studies have shown that the use of QBS to align the most qualified professional services firm with a clearly defined scope of work results in a more cost-effective construction solution. One such study can be found by visiting the following website: http://nysqbs.org/resources.html#Group5 and selecting the "Polytechnic University Study of Qualifications-Based Selection" link under the "Studies" heading.

For my next blog post, I’ll discuss the QBS process.

Until then,

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions

Grateful greetings - Charities chosen for CE Solutions' gift of giving back

In a spirit of gratefulness and an interest in giving back, CE Solutions again decided to contribute to charitable organizations this past holiday season. Many of our clients, collaborators and friends responded to our email announcement and voted for their favorite charities as chosen by our staff. In addition, some elected to write in organizations important to them, adding six more to the list. The distribution of our holiday donations reflects the number of votes received for the following charities:

We appreciate the opportunity to involve others in our holiday donation experience. If you’re not receiving email announcements from us and would like to, send us a note through the Contact page or email ces@cesolutionsinc.com and let us know. Best wishes for 2015!

 



 

CE Solutions' gift: Choose your Charity

At CE Solutions, we've been blessed with great clients who help us create structural engineering solutions that make a difference. Again this holiday season, in a spirit of gratefulness and an interest in giving to those in need, CE Solutions will be donating to several charitable organizations. To involve our clients, collaborators and friends, each employee chose a charity. Recipients of the email greeting can visit a survey, which features the organizations' web site addresses and allows them to choose their favorites. Or, they can enter a different charitable organization that's meaningful to them. The distribution of our holiday donations will reflect those choices. Not on our email list? Email ces@cesolutionsinc.com to be added and get future announcements from us.

Reflections on Thanksgiving

CE Solutions’ is grateful for the solid relationships we’ve built throughout the years with clients and collaborators. In the spirit of giving thanks, here are few quotes about gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!
 
"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
- Marcel Proust

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
- Maya Angelou

"Gratitude is the sign of noble souls."
- Aesop

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."
- Oprah Winfrey

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”
- Tecumseh

"All that we behold is full of blessings."
- William Wordsworth

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Creating and communicating relevance

Last month, I was fortunate to present a half-day seminar at the annual convention for the National Association of Women in Construction. While the overall topic was marketing, the attendees had diverse roles, with only a few having the word “marketing” in their titles. It was a lively discussion with insightful participants who left me inspired.

Since joining the A/E/C industry in 2003, I’ve heard the term “marketing” used several different ways. “We’re going to market to them.” “They put their marketing spin on it.” Or my favorite—a Dilbert cartoon that concludes with the punchline, marketing is “just liquor and guessing.”

But marketing isn’t about blasting out sales messages, the dreaded word “spin,” or taking guesses while taking sips.  Here’s how the American Marketing Association defines it:

“The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

My condensed version of the definition is that effective marketing is about creating and communicating relevant value to clients and potential clients. These definitions—as I shared with the seminar attendees—make every one of us a marketer, regardless of role, because we are all responsible for providing value to our clients. We should continually ask ourselves, how are we delivering our value, communicating it, and advancing it?

Throughout our marketing efforts, we should keep in mind that roles in architecture, engineering and construction firms are service professions. Just like our A/E/C services are meant to benefit clients, so should our marketing and business development processes. That requires good listening, seeking to understand first and then be understood, customizing our approaches to each client, and providing information that is beneficial to our clients, prospects and partners.

When it comes to marketing in the A/E/C community, we’ve come a long way. In the ‘70s, “marketing” was somewhat of a bad word—firms didn’t believe they had to market and thought it was in bad taste to do so. That has changed, but we still have a long way to go, and it starts with how we define it and how we approach it.

If you’re a provider of professional services—what makes you distinct? How do you provide value to the organizations you work with? If you’re a buyer of professional services—what do you look for in consultants? What information is helpful to you? What can we do to provide more value for you?

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Let me know your thoughts!

Holly Bolton, FSMPS, CPSM
Director of Marketing

Making the transition from classroom to career

I’ve been working at CE Solutions for a little over three months now, and during that time, I have reflected on what has helped make the transition easier as my path changed from a structural engineering student to a structural engineering professional.

Both new employees and the companies that hire them are responsible for creating smooth transitions from the classroom to the workplace. Two-way communication, adaptability and transparency can go a long way in easing the transition. Like with all life experiences, there will inevitably be bumps in the road, but addressing them immediately can help prevent them from developing into larger issues. It’s not just a matter of the new employee completing assigned tasks, but becoming a new member of the team.

If you represent the hiring company, it’s important to:

  • Strike a balance between structure and freedom. Too much freedom may cause your new employee to feel aimless and uncertain, while too much structure may cause him or her to feel limited. This balance will be different for every new employee; someone out of college may be used to structure from classes and would appreciate it, but others may resent it. Pick a starting point and adjust accordingly based on the new employee’s comfort and competence.
  • Communicate expectations for the new hire. Include considerations like company culture and technical style (drafting or design), and provide clear office standards from which the newly hired employee can work. All the while, be open to new ideas or suggestions the new employee might have regarding improvements to the office standards and practices.

If you’re a new employee, it’s important to:

  • Refer to examples from projects the company has completed in the past. This will help familiarize you with company’s methodology while allowing you to think about ways to improve upon what has been done in the past. Since the methodology will be fresh and new, you might be able to find areas that could be potentially improved moving forward.
  • Be clear in your work, your thought process and how you make decisions.  This not only allows senior employees to more easily review what you’ve done, but allows them to think about how their personal methods may have changed and evolved over time.
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What tips do you have for making the transition easier? Feel free to comment and let us know what you think! 

Nathan Boltz, EI

Creating a new look for CE Solutions

Here at CE Solutions, the purpose for our structural engineering firm is to improve the quality of life in the communities where we work.

Our work can involve designing the structural system for a new building or addition. It can involve renovating or repurposing a facility. Or, it can involve analyzing an existing building or structure and providing recommendations for needed repair or strengthening.

The common thread is that each engineering solution we design supports the purpose of the structure and improves quality of life for those who use it. So, we’ve decided it’s time to improve the quality of how we represent ourselves as a company. CE Solutions has a new look that more accurately captures the purpose and attributes of our firm.

Through our process of refreshing our brand, we considered who we are as a firm and what we value, as well as outcomes of internal and external perception surveys and our strategic planning activities.

Our refreshed identity captures CE Solutions in a more symbolic way. We strive to bring a high level of care to each of our projects and relationships. The refreshed colors, fonts and mark in our new logo symbolize this care, as well as what we focus on bringing to clients and collaborators—peace of mind during the project process, successful results, and a relationship that lasts far beyond the project’s completion date.

The symbolism reflected in our logo reiterates and advances our founding principles of solid relationships, mutual respect, integrity and ethical practice.

I’m excited to unveil our new look to you today! We appreciate and value our relationship with you and look forward to continuing to be true to our purpose and help our clients be true to theirs.

Our old logo and new logo!

Until next time!
Steve

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions



Looking back, looking forward

In 2013, CE Solutions celebrated its 15th anniversary in business. We've come a long way since I started the company doing structural engineering in my basement. The CE Solutions family has grown to nine employees. We're working on larger, more complex projects. We're redesigning our logo from one I designed when I started the company to something simpler and symbolic (which I’ll explain in my next blog post). And, we've replaced our vintage web site with this one, which features the blog you're reading now!

One thing that hasn't changed is our focus on relationships and communication. With that in mind, our goal with this blog is to communicate interesting, helpful and relevant information to our clients, partners and friends in a concise format. Please let us know if you have ideas or suggestions of what we should write about. In addition, we are open to receiving guest blog submissions from our clients and partners, so please let us know if you’re interested in contributing.

In the spirit of communication and relationships, I have joined Twitter! If you tweet, I’d love to follow you. You can follow me at @SteveOsbornPE. I'll be tweeting about leadership and information related to the design and construction community. You can also follow our marketing director, Holly Bolton, who is a social media veteran, at @hollybolton.

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Until next time!
Steve

Steve Osborn, PE, SE, FSMPS, CPSM
President, CE Solutions